Thursday, May 8, 2014

33 Variations

On March 28th I went to The Winter Garden Theatre to see 33 Variations written by Moises Kaufman and staged by Beth Marshal Presents. I had been to a dress rehearsal and hopefully that write up generated interest for this incredible production. Though it was the second to last performance, I had to see the set and lighting to feel the shows full impact. Aradhana Tiwari directed this stellar cast in this show about Beethoven's struggle to create late in his career as he went deaf and a modern day researcher obsessed with understanding his motives as her health also fails. The 33 variations were written by Beethoven based on music written by a lesser known composer and music publisher.

I was touched by the idea that the music researcher felt the need to travel to Vienna to see and touch Beethoven's original sketchbooks. I wrote out every compositional idea, so the sketchbooks were a way to see his every thought. The minimalist set acted as a multi media projection space at times covered in notes and in one scene becoming a bustling subway. At one point a ghostly silhouette of Beethoven was projected walking from stage left to stage right. The sound, lighting and projections became a creative escape into two tortured minds.  Modern day events and historic Viennese events overlapped and intermingled. I was swept away.

Peg O'Keef who played Katherine Brandt, the music researcher, did an astonishing job performing with the advancing stages of sclerosis. After the show, she explained to me that she had found a series of You Tube videos made by a gregarious and vibrant man who recorded himself repeatedly as he succumbed to the muscle debilitating illness.  In one daring scene Peg disrobed for an MRI. In the nude isolation, she and Bethoven were back to back.  The magical moment wag gone in a flash.

After the show, Aradahna hooked her arm in mine and asked me to have a drink with the cast at the bar next door. I only stayed for one drink but the party was just starting. It seems sad that such an amazing show should have such a short run. But, like Beethoven, a creative life can't last forever. The music and inspiration does last forever. There is a link above to all of the 33 Variations. I suggest you listen to it while your surfing the web or social media. They are inspiring in their entirety.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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